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Maven's Memories: Bob Bourne's End to End Rush

Stan Fischler chronicles Bob Bourne's terrific individual effort vs the Rangers

by Stan Fischler @StanFischler / NewYorkIslanders.com

It almost feels like it didn't really happen; as if Bob Bourne was dreaming about the events that took place the night of April 20, 1983.

After Bourne's stunning end-to-end rush that led to a big playoff goal against the Rangers, the Islanders meteoric skater went home and played his video over and over and over again. Perhaps he didn't believe it.

"I watched it a dozen times," he said. "I got excited all over again every time I saw it."

So did the capacity crowd at Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum not to mention endless numbers of fans who feel that they, too must see it many times to believe it.

Coach Al Arbour's skaters already had established their dynasty by winning three consecutive (1980, 1981, 1982) Stanley Cups. Now they were engaged in the Prince of Wales Division Final against the Blueshirts.

The bitter series was tied at two games apiece, The Nassaumen won the first pair and then the Rangers surged to knot the tournament., Game Five was considered pivotal by both sides. 

"This by no means was an easy playoff," said Arbour, "and the Rangers were particularly tough. We wanted no part of having to play a Game Seven. "

It showed. Seemingly before the Rangers could exhale, the Home Club raced to a 4-1 lead. The trick now was to produce a "cushion" goal that would deflate coach Herb Brooks' sextet and end the tourney.

Bourne: "I was on a line with two Canadian prairie boys like me; Duane and Brent Sutter. We were clicking and I, personally, was having the best playoff of my life."

The native of Kindersley, Saskatchewan already had earned a league-wide reputation for his speed and toughness. Nicknames such as "Kid Lightning" embellished scouting reports that stated "he can really wheel."

His straightaway skating just plain marvelous. One longtime observer credited, "Those wide strides; those loose hips."

Nevertheless, the odds were heavily against anything like the bobbing-and-weaving production that Bourne soon would create in his in-and-out skate to glory.

The late Ira Gitler, co-author of Hockey, The Story of the World's Fastest Sport, was surprised that Bourne could pull off his feat. 

"Remember," said Gitler, "it was late in the second period and the ice was all chopped up. It didn't figure that -- on that kind of surface -- anyone could do what Bourne did.

"Then there was the matter of the Rangers pressing to get back in the game and lead the series. They felt that this was the one they had to win."

But with a minute-and-a-half remaining in the middle frame, Bourne irrevocably turned the tide against the Blueshirts. The once-in-a-lifetime play began with a face-off at the Rangers blue line.

Brent Sutter took the draw with Duane on the right side and Bourne on left. 
The Rangers won the face-off and launched a counterattack deep into the right side of the Isles zone.

At that point, Isles defenseman Tomas Jonsson, poke-checked the puck free and sent a short backhand pass to Bourne who already was in flight, heading -- from right to left -- behind goalie Bill Smith.

Doing play-by-play for Cablevision's SportsChannel, veteran Islanders broadcaster Jiggs McDonald kept pace with the dashing demon on the ice.

McDonald: "Bourne rounds the net, starts quickly on the right side..."

As Bob flew over the Islanders right face-off circle, he could have skimmed a pass to one of his teammates. But by this time, he was so enveloped in his own speed, it appeared that he had no choice but to just go. And he did.

Brent Sutter: "I saw Bob take off and I did likewise, thinking he might want to pass the puck to me. Actually I got to the red line first but Bournie beat me to the Rangers blue line."

Bourne's opponents -- like uprights on a pinball machine -- were too slow and too mesmerized to sufficiently react and the energized Islander kept going.

McDonald: "... out to center ice. Look at this speed!"

Helpless to intercept the blur, the Rangers forwards faded from view as if they were mere shadows. Only defensemen Reijo Ruotsalainen and Barry Beck were in position to curb Bourne's enthusiasm as he approached the enemy zone.

By this time, the crowd's eyes were riveted on the whirling dervish with the Long Island logo on his jersey. Everyone wondered what Bob would do next. Ditto for Jiggs and his analyst, Eddie Westfall, in the tv booth.

McDonald: "Bourne across the line, around Ruotsalainen..."

Crouched in the Rangers goal, netminder Eddie Mio hoped against hope that veteran Barry Beck would intercept the foe who now was hell bent for a drive on goal.

But, helplessly, Barry looked on -- as the song goes, "All Alone By The Telephone."

While Beck remained magnetized to the ice, Bourne sized up his target. He liked what he saw as well as his chances to score. He was 18 feet from the crease when the missile was released.

McDonald: "... shoots; he scores! End to end! Bobby Bourne did it all by himself!" 

The big barn was almost lifted off its hinges as the crowd noises reverberated into every crevasse and out on to Hempstead Turnpike.

Meanwhile, a blend of awe and enthusiasm moved Jiggs and Eddie to wax ecstatic over The Bourne Masterpiece.

Westfall: "Bob Bourne has put on a one-man show."

McDonald: "He has just lived the dream of so many little boys growing up."

Westfall on the video replay: "He's up the ice with tremendous speed and the puck won't cooperate; that makes it even tougher. Works to his left, pulls it through Ruotsalainen's legs. Ruotsalainen showing that he's vulnerable; and then it's in, behind Eddie Mio. Pretty to watch."

Then a pause and more Westfall: "That one will live in the minds of a lot of us for a long time. It's not often you see someone with that kind of speed, that kind of grace, be able to manage the puck through center ice all the way into the other end and put it in the net so cleanly. No one touched him or the puck; the puck didn't want to cooperate and that's what made it as tough as it was."

Mobbed by his incredulous mates, Bob would be the darling of critics near and far. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Nick Seitz called the coast-to-coast caper a "heroic foray -- a graceful, athletic thing of beauty."

From his up front view, Duane Sutter said, "It was the prettiest goal I've ever seen."

The chief protagonist, Bourne, had time to digest the entire event. Surrounded by the media, post-game after the 7-2 Isles victory he summed up his unique accomplishment with typical aplomb.

Bourne: "I haven't done anything like that since I was a kid. I don't think I've ever attempted it in this league. You do something like that once in a career. I'll never forget it."

Neither will Rangers president John Davidson who once played goal against Bourne when both were Junior hockey aces in Western Canada. 

Coming from so intense a rival as a Ranger, Davidson's review took on even more meaning. He summed up The Great Coast To Coast Rush Of Bob Bourne with six little words.

"It was," Davidson concluded, "a work of art!"

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